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New book on smell and memory in Black Country culture edited by University researchers launches

New book on smell and memory in Black Country culture edited by University researchers launches

University of Wolverhampton researchers Professor Sebastian Groes and Dr Robert Francis have published 'Smell, Memory, and Literature in the Black Country', an interdisciplinary exploration of the relationship between olfaction and memory in the West Midlands.

From Banks’s brewery’s yeasty stink to groaty pudding and spicy curry, the book’s collection of essays provides a new literary history of the smells and childhood memories that belong to the Black Country.

Lecturer in Creative Writing, Rob Francis, said: “The Black Country is often an overlooked region of the United Kingdom, but we’ve decided to put it at the centre of this book, using it as the basis for exploration of the relationship between smell and memory.

“Growing up in the Black Country is a unique and exciting experience, with such a rich mix of smells, even within a very short distance, helping to add to our strong sense of identity and connection to the region.”

The book, which has a preface from author Will Self, draws on psychology, neuroscience, memory studies, literary studies and philosophy.

The critical essays reconsider psychogeography through cutting-edge sensory and philosophical engagements with physical space, smell, language and human behaviour.

Professor in English Literature Sebastian Groes said: “The Black Country is going through a transformative moment whereby gentrification and a veritable cultural boom are reinvigorating the region.  This book hopes to contribute to forging new, bright futures for the Black Country.”

The creative contributions from writers, including Liz Berry, Narinder Dhami, Anthony Cartwright, and Kerry Hadley-Pryce, meditate on the senses, place, and identity.

It’s hoped that the book will not only appeal to those interested in the rich cultural heritage of the Black Country, but also those interested in place-identity, politics and the importance of culture in the twenty-first century.

The book was released earlier this month and can be purchased from the publisher’s (Palgrave Macmillan) website and Amazon.

Professor Groes and Dr Francis are also organising an official event to take place on Zoom on March 25 to celebrate the launch of the book.  At the event, which starts at 5:30, writers including Kit de Waal, Liz Berry and Kerry Hadley-Pryce will read from their work. You can book your free ticket, here:

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